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State v. Miller

December 23, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM JOSEPH MILLER, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 93-1-05525-7. Date filed: 02/04/94. Judge signing: Hon. Harriett M. Cody.

Petition for Review Denied June 3, 1997,

Authored by H. Joseph Coleman. Concurring: Faye C. Kennedy, Walter E. Webster.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman

COLEMAN, J. -- William Miller was convicted of two counts of first degree rape and one count of first degree attempted child molestation of three daughters of his former girlfriend, Alondra. After his conviction, Alondra married Miller and recanted her trial testimony. Miller thus brought a motion for a new trial, which the court denied. He argues that this denial was error. We disagree because the trial court's Conclusion that Alondra was not a reliable witness was factually supported, and substantial evidence supports Miller's conviction without her testimony. Miller also argues that the trial court erred in admitting child hearsay.

Because the hearsay statements substantially satisfied the Ryan *fn1 factors, we affirm their admission. Miller further argues that insufficient evidence supports his conviction for attempted child molestation because the State did not prove that he took a substantial step toward the crime's completion. We disagree because evidence that Miller asked a victim to engage in sexual acts, showed her sexual magazines, and rubbed her thigh constitute sufficient evidence of a substantial step. Miller finally claims that the court erred by admitting only a portion of the letters that he wrote in prison and by admitting summaries of two of the children's interviews. We find that neither of these evidentiary rulings constitutes an abuse of discretion because the letters were largely irrelevant and the summaries were not prejudicial. His conviction is therefore affirmed.

FACTS

The three alleged victims were five-year-old SS, six-year-old PH, and eight-year-old AH. Before trial, the court conducted a hearing to determine the admissibility of several child hearsay statements. Alondra testified that on August 13, 1993, her daughter AH came up to her and said that she did not like what was going on with Miller and PH. When Alondra asked what was going on, AH said that "he was having her do things." When PH came home, Alondra asked her "if Will had her doing anything." PH replied, "Yes." Alondra asked what he had her do, and PH replied, "He made me suck his penis."

Alondra testified that on August 16, Miller was arrested following a fight with her. Later that night, the girls asked whether Will had hurt Alondra, and she said, "No." PH said that she thought it was her fault that Will was leaving. Alondra assured her that she did not do anything wrong. According to Alondra's testimony, "All of a sudden . . . said, 'Will made SS touch him.'" SS stated, "'I didn't do what PH did.'" AH then started trying to tell everything she knew that Miller had done with her sisters.

Alondra asked AH if Miller had done anything to her, and she said, "He asked me to do it. If I told him no, he would make me go to bed." The girls stated that the abuse occurred when Alondra was asleep and Will was not, but they could not say how many times or give an exact date. Alondra testified that she was dissatisfied with Miller because he was not paying his portion of the bills and that she was not happy living with Miller because they were constantly fighting and Miller was always drinking and "talking about [her] drinking." On August 17, 1993, Alondra reported the abuse and the next day, Detective Luckie set up an interview for the girls with Michelle Stiller, a child interview specialist with the King County prosecutor's office.

Stiller testified that she first interviewed PH, who denied that any abuse occurred. At one point, Stiller asked PH, "Did Will ever touch the private parts of your body?" PH said, "No." Stiller then asked, "Did he ever want you to touch his body?" PH said, "No." Stiller then interviewed SS. Stiller asked her what happened with Will. SS responded that Will made her suck his penis. Stiller then asked whether SS saw him do anything to PH, to which SS replied, "He made PH suck his penis also." SS said that she saw this happen to PH upstairs. Later in the interview, however, SS stated that this abuse happened downstairs.

Stiller then reinterviewed PH but admitted that it was uncommon to reinterview children. In the second interview, PH asked if SS told Stiller what had happened. Stiller responded that SS had told her some stuff that PH had not told her. PH stated, "You mean about Will? He made us do it." When Stiller asked what he made them do, PH replied, "He made me suck his penis." PH said it happened four times, but later, when questioned about rooms, she stated it happened nine times--four times downstairs and five times in her room. PH also stated that Miller touched her on her "private." PH never saw anything come out of Miller's penis, but said that AH "saw him shakin' it" and something come out. Stiller wrote summaries of the interviews after she completed them.

That same day, Detective Luckie interviewed AH. When asked if she knew why she was there, AH replied that she was there because of Will. AH also volunteered that she had seen PH sucking on Will's penis. AH stated that Will would ask her to do things with him but she "told him NO." AH further stated that PH had told her that "white stuff" comes out of his penis, but AH had only seen "some drips" come out when he was shaking it. Later that day, Luckie typed up a summary of his interview with AH. Luckie also observed the interviews that Stiller conducted through a one-way mirror. The court determined that the statements from the three witnesses were admissible because the Ryan factors were largely satisfied.

The State also sought the admission of several letters that Miller had written to Alondra while awaiting trial in prison. These letters contained several poems, drawings, journal entries, and more standard letters containing several partial admissions. Most of the letters, however, did not discuss the child abuse charges. The court ruled that portions of the letters were admissible as admissions against interest but most were irrelevant. The court permitted the prosecutor to read only certain portions.

The prosecutor thus read four redacted portions of the letters. One letter stated in part, "I'm taking everything to trial. No use pleading to something for someone who doesn't help. I know the things I've done were wrong. And I need help and some teaching[.]" Another letter stated in part, "I know you have so much anger directed towards me and I deserve it-- I've done this--It's my fault I'm here--I don't blame you at all-- should have asked for help when I was out. My drinking had gotten the best of me. Please forgive me for putting you through this."

At trial, Luckie essentially repeated his testimony from the 3.5 hearing regarding the child hearsay, which included the following: SS and PH both stated that Miller made them suck his penis, and AH stated that she had seen Miller "shaking" his penis, at which time she demonstrated male masturbation. AH also told him that Miller had touched the tops of her thighs and her butt.

After he interviewed AH, Detective Luckie testified that he interviewed Miller. After advising Miller of the girls' allegations, Miller stated, "'They talked to you . . . They actually talked to you? They talked about this?'" When Luckie asked him if he had sex with the ...


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